Born and raised in South London, Bklava has grown up listening to a wide range of musical styles that has formed her sound today and also shaped her vocals and writing. Her love of dance music began when she was played Lebanese music as a child and her family would dance together at parties.
Bklava also founded Spin Suga which began as a promotion based platform supporting female/non-binary DJs and now acts as a radio show on Platform B and has helped to host DJ workshops and panel talks for young aspiring DJs/producers in and around Brighton. Catch her on Rinse FM, Trickstar or Platform B radio every month.
We caught up with Bklava over email, ahead of the release of her latest track Got It Good.
Growing up, what was your first memory of music?
My mum and Teta (grandma) used to play me Lebanese music that I would dance to. There’s a video of me at the age of two or three, dancing around a footstool trying not to fall.
Did you play any instruments when you were younger?
I played guitar and piano. I started learning guitar when I was nine and used to record covers. I wrote a song in year 7 about bullying and sold 20 copies for a pound each – I made £20.
What was your first taste of electronic music?
I was brought up on 90s dance chart music that my mum and uncle would play me, [tracks like] Freed From Desire and I’m a Dreamer. And when I was a bit older, my uncle would play me things like Groove Armada. I was surrounded by a lot of people who loved house music and dubstep at the Brit School and it opened my eyes to that world. I would go to parties and listen to that kind of music before I could get into clubs.
What made you want to start creating art?
My first boyfriend was a DJ as well as a producer. We were both into dubstep and house so we would go to loads of raves together. The way performing makes me feel, nothing else has ever really felt so right. I’ve tried other jobs but this is what I’m supposed to do, it makes me so happy and I’ve never got bored of it – it’s what I am going to keep doing.
Why the name Bklava?
It’s possibly one of my favourite desserts and very relevant to my middle-eastern roots. I have attempted to make Baklava twice (barma bi fostoq, the one with all the pistachio in the middle), not unsuccessfully but not up to standard! Still edible! I’m still trying to get it as good as my Teta’s!
Growing up, was there a particular moment that stands out for you and made you think, ‘I want to be doing that’?
It was more a collection of things. I took my time sharing music but whenever I saw my friends do it, it would inspire me to get up there and do it myself. I’ve been writing all my life but it feels crazy to me that people are finally hearing my music.
What’s the first truly memorable gig that you went to?
I went to see Bring Me the Horizon at the Roundhouse in Camden and was captivated by their full command of the crowd. In my early teens, I used to be well into that scene and went to a lot of gigs – I became pretty good at dodging mosh pits.
What’s the song/album you currently have on repeat?
Wake You Up by Summer Banton. I discovered her through my “suggested” on insta. She released an EP over the summer called Summary – go check it out!
Who were/are your biggest influences?
Chakha Khan – the queen of dance and disco, Queen – the musical theatre realness, Kate Bush – the first lady of synth/electronic music, Aretha Franklin – queen of soul, Imogen Heap – music genius, technology wizard, Erykah Badu – pure jams and Amy Winehouse – an angel.
And dream collaborators outside of those influences?
Nile Rogers – every song he has made is a banger, Mark Ronson – he adapts to every artist and everything he touches is magic. Disclosure – I’ve been following them for years and have always been a big fan. Oh, and Kaytranada, he’s got such a good mix of dance and soul.
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give to your younger self?
Keep doing what you’re doing, don’t be hard on yourself and stop trying to rush it! Everything will fall into place in time and the hard work will finally pay off.
Tell me about Spin Suga.
Spin Suga was started by myself and later joined by my good friend Henna. It’s a DJ collective that promotes a gender balance within the electronic music industry – it’s always been more difficult for females in this industry and this platform exists to help females that want to start DJing. We have done workshops and panels, and we also work in radio, promotion and production. We supported Annie Mac and played our first headline show up in Liverpool this year.
How did CNTRL come about?
I had the lyrics but not a hook, so I improvised a melody over the track. The backing track is a Wookie beat that got sent over to me. The hook came when I heard that music. In terms of lyrics, my relationship at the time was ending and I was writing about being free, my person and being in control of my life – so the song is an anthem to that particular time.
What can we expect from you in the future?
I am working on incorporating more of my live vocals into my DJ sets. I also have new music on the way… there are very exciting times ahead.
Check out Bklava’s newly released track Got It Good.